You can now have a 'legally binding' one night stand
So, you're out on a first date and, truth be told, you're having quite the night. Your prospective honey turned out to be a hottie, conversation in the restaurant was on point and "dinner" consisted of two bottles of wine and a side dish of pasta. Your date suggests a cheeky nightcap when you're sharing a taxi home, and all of a sudden the sexual tension is so thick, you couldn't even cut it if you tried.
So many people have found themselves in this exact situation. But, of course, the one thing that often stops them from going full steam ahead is the assemblage of doubts in the back of their minds. What if they don't want to use a condom? What if they're into some weird kinky stuff? What if they're lying when they say they don't have an STI? What if the whole sexual encounter just goes completely and utterly wrong?
Well, a Dutch company claims to have the answer to all of your worries. LegalFling is a new app which apparently solves most of the problems that run through your mind when you head to the bedroom with someone that you've only known for approximately 3.5 hours. The new app, which states that it is “the first blockchain based app to verify explicit consent before having sex” allows users to request sexual consent with the swipe of a finger. All you have to do is file a request and wait for your partner to accept.
In addition, it lets people set the terms of their sexual encounter, permitting its users to choose whether or not they want to film the experience, if they want to use a condom, as well as explicit language or BDSM. Furthermore, it asks both partners if they have been open about any STIs they may or may not have. So what happened if you haven't been honest? The app claims to be legally binding, so if either partner breaks any of the terms and conditions of the tryst, both parties could find themselves battling it out in a courtroom.
Describing the invention, the LegalFling website states: "Sex should be fun and safe, but nowadays a lot of things can go wrong. Think of unwanted videos, withholding information about STDs and offensive porn reenactment. While you're protected by law, litigating any offenses through court is nearly impossible in reality. LegalFling creates a legally binding agreement, which means any offense is a breach of contract."
The new creation can also be used by couples in long-term relationships to manage their sex life and ensure that any raunchy naked pictures or video clips don't get out after a bad break-up. In fact, you can limit the duration of the consent from a few short hours to an infinite period of time and each contract is secured using blockchain, the technology that safeguards cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
As a result of its multitude of features, LegalFling's makers have lauded it as filling a void in the minefield that is dating. Surely a legal contract solves the problem of consent, right? Well, thousands of people have disagreed. Aside from the insane fact that by using the app we are being forced into trusting a phone over pure human decency, there are also a bevvy of other problems that come hand-in-hand with the product.
Despite its obvious immediate benefits, the app was panned when it first hit headlines for being a foolish gimmick that fundamentally misunderstands the basic concept of sexual consent. Among critics' main points was that sexual consent cannot be managed by a simple document, no matter how catchy its concept.
Although the website's frequently asked questions section states that "no means no" and claims that users can still change their mind at any time, the method in which this withdrawal of consent is performed has divided opinion. If a user wishes to withdraw consent at any time, they can do so on the LegalFling app with a single tap; however, here makers seem to be missing the fact that consent is more easily expressed through people's actions, rather than through a digital contract - or it should be at least.
Would it not be easier to pause any sexual happenings and verbally tell your sexual partner that you are no longer comfortable, rather than to stop the encounter, fumble about to find your phone and take back control of your body? At the end of the day, consent needs to be fluid and easily withdrawn in person, not governed by technology. As anti-sexual violence charity RAINN points out: “Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact.”
Headed up by three male founders and backed by an 87 per cent male team, LegalFling has, unsurprisingly, been criticised for its deeply flawed representation of sexual consent. But it's not only the fact that one person could change their mind halfway through that's the problem. Actually, the critics are claiming that whole app seems problematic due to one worry in particular: would it not make proving sexual assault even more difficult and unfeasible than it already is in courts?
Perhaps this is best summarised in the words of Jaclyn Friedman, in her book Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape. While discussing the subject of consent, she wrote: “People think about consent in terms of ‘I need to cover my ass so no one can accuse me of rape.’ And honestly, when you’re approaching consent from that angle, that’s a really rapey angle… it’s about covering your butt instead of actually showing up for your partner.”
LegalFling is currently a work in progress and is subject to approval by Apple and Google. If they do give it their blessing, it will be available to millions of singletons in the Google Play Store and App Store. However, before you press "accept and fling", perhaps you should consider the legion of complications that come from using a service like this, and what kind of untrustworthy person you're having sex with if either of you believes that you need a legally binding contract to govern consent. Because it seems to me that consent should be something that is already clear, not decided by a phone app.
Featured illustration by Egarcigu